It’s a mobile world! Our mobile devices and smartphone apps can do just about anything these days, from paying for our groceries at the checkout to holding digital coupons for our favorite stores. If you’re like many, then your device contains everything from your daily workout schedule to all your mobile banking information.

While our cell phones and tablets offer us a great deal of convenience, they also put us at an even greater security risk. Imagine if your device got into the wrong hands or was hacked into while it was still in your possession. It’s a scary thought, but the good news is there are steps you can take to keep your mobile devices and digital wallet secure.

1. Enable Password Protection

Using a password on your device, like your cell phone, might seem a bit inconvenient at times, but it’s one security measure that should not be overlooked.

This protection feature is built into just about every phone, even older phones.  It requires the user to enter a password (usually a 4 digit code) in order to access the phone.  Once the user if finished with their session the phone automatically locks.

Often, people don’t opt to use the password because it takes a few extra seconds to access the device, but those few extra seconds could pay off if your phone gets lost.

2. Pick Strong Passwords for Mobile Banking and Apps

We’ve established how important it is to use the password protection feature, but that’s not the only time you will need a password.  Some apps you download will require a password, too, like the app for yourbank or your credit card app. Using a strong password is about as basic as you can get.  It’s one of the first things we learn when it comes to computer security.

When you choose a password, pick one that’s not so obvious. Don’t use the last four digits of your phone number or your birth date.  Just stay away from passwords that could easily be figured out by someone else.

It’s also a good idea to use different passwords for different logins, instead of using the same password for all mobile banking accounts and apps. If one password is compromised, it won’t put all of your information at risk.

3. Always Download Software Updates

Updating your software is key to protecting you and your digital wallet. If your software is outdated, then it will be more vulnerable and easier for hackers to exploit your private information. Software vendors like Apple and Microsoft periodically release new software versions that have better security measures in place.

Some mobile devices will notify the user when a new software version is available and some don’t.

For example, if you use the iOS (iPhone or iPad), you will not receive automatic updates. Instead, you have manually check for updates via iTunes. Android devices have an auto-updater, but the user will still have to give their permission when they want to update to a new version.

4. Download Smartphone Apps with Discretion

In this day and age with computers at the center of our world, you should always use discretion when making a download. This is no different when it comes to downloading smartphone apps on your phone or tablet.

If you are using a device that has an open platform, like an Android phone, then be cautious of the apps you’re downloading in order to prevent smart phone identity theft. It’s always worth doing some research to make sure it’s a reliable smartphone app from a well known source.

5. Use Caution When Opening Links

Be careful when opening links, even if it’s from someone you know. If you receive an e-mail or text message from a friend that includes a link that doesn’t make sense, don’t open it!

Recently, a friend’s e-mail was hacked into and as a result, everyone in her contacts received a bogus e-mail. It was sent from her account, so when I originally received the e-mail, it looked genuine.

However, the contents of the e-mail said “Here’s the link I promised to send you”  followed by a really long URL. I knew this didn’t make sense, and I didn’t open the link. After doing a bit more research I determined the link contained a virus. If I had opened the link, it could have compromised all of the information on my iPhone.

6. Use A Cell Phone Tracking Feature

There are a variety of cell phone tracking features that allow users to locate their phone when it’s been misplaced. In addition, some tracking features even allow you to remotely lock your phone or remotely wipe the information from your phone.

There are many apps that can help you if your phone is lost, just be sure to choose a well trusted app to do the job. Here are two well known apps that get great reviews:

  • Find My iPhone: This is one of my favorite iPhone apps because of the level of security it offers.  If you are an iPhone user and you have the newest software updated on your phone (iOS 5) then you also have iCloud. iCloud works in conjunction with the Find My iPhone App and it allows you to locate your phone, lock your phone and wipe out your phone’s contents from a remote location.  You can do all this from the iCloud website, as long as you downloaded the app beforehand. This can also be used with your iPad or Mac computer.
  • Find My Droid: If you have an Android device, you will be happy to know they have a similar app for Droid users. Find My Droid also allows you to remotely locate and lock your device in the event you can’t find it.

This guest post is from Michal, the senior editor of popular personal finance sites DoughRoller andCreditCardOffersIQ.